What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
During sleep, our muscles relax. The muscles in our throat, however, maintain some tone to hold our airway open for us to breathe. For some people these muscles relax too much causing the airway to narrow slightly. Partial narrowing will often result in snoring – a vibration generated by the soft, floppy parts of the throat as air passes during breathing. However, sometimes the narrowing is more significant and causes a partial or complete reduction in airflow to the lungs.
When the airway is blocked OSA sufferers will wake either partially or completely to breathe again, although they are often unaware of this happening. This can occur up to several hundred times a night, causing severe disruption of their sleep and daytime sleepiness. Untreated OSA may also lead to road accidents and other serious health problems including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Do you snore? Does your bed-partner report breathing pauses during sleep? Are you a restless sleeper? Do you have morning headaches? If you answered “often” or “sometimes” to any of the before mention questions then you may suffer from OSA. Other common symptoms include waking with a choking sensation at night; wake feeling unrefreshed; excessive sleepiness during the day; poor memory or concentration.
Positive airway pressure, or PAP, is the most common and effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.
PAP treatment is administered through a mask that seals either the nose, mouth or both nose and mouth. The PAP unit supplies a gentle air pressure that splints the upper airway and allows the person to breather uninterrupted during sleep. The pressure is continuous and can be adjusted for the individual.
The user will experience almost immediate relief of symptoms with PAP treatment. To continue receiving these benefits PAP must be used during every sleep.
Source: Fisher and Paykel Brochure, “What would you do for a good night’s sleep?”